Southmead Hospital cervical cancer inquiry 'too small'

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Media captionJulie O'Connor died on 4 February, after her condition was missed several times.

The bereaved family of a nurse repeatedly given the all-clear for cervical cancer say she wanted "nobody else to suffer as she had".

Julie O'Connor, 49, died on 4 February, after her condition was missed several times at Bristol's Southmead Hospital.

Days before her death, she said: "It's disgusting I have been suffering the way I have and I continue to suffer."

North Bristol NHS Trust said an independent review of her care would start this month.

Her family are fighting for a wider inquiry into her case and say it was her dying wish that they continue to fight for other women who may have been affected.

Mrs O'Connor had a cervical smear test in September 2014 that came back as negative.

Doctors at Southmead said she had another condition known as a cervical ectropion. She was eventually diagnosed three years later by a private consultant.

Image caption She was eventually diagnosed three years after having a smear test in 2014

Speaking before her death, Mrs O'Connor said she was "horrified" at the extent of her cancer when she went for a private examination and the consultant found a 4.5cm tumour.

"Within 30 seconds of being examined he told me it was cervical cancer," she said.

"He couldn't even get a camera into the womb, it was completely blocked.

"If it had been caught at the beginning, it would have been a simple procedure, at most probably a hysterectomy and it would have all been fine."

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The family sued North Bristol NHS Trust, which admitted liability and offered damages.

Her husband Kevin, from Thornbury, said he believed other cases of cervical cancer in women may have been missed.

He said: "One of the last things Julie said was that she didn't want this to happen to anybody else.

"I've asked the coroners if they would consider an inquiry, not just into Julie's care but back to 2014 to be sure this doesn't have to happen to anyone else, and if there are other victims."

Image copyright O'Connor family
Image caption Mrs O'Connor had been an intensive care nurse, a school nurse and a nurse in the private sector

Mr O'Connor said that despite her last painful year, his wife was "always happy, always smiling".

"We knew what was going to happen so we focused on the love and the laughter and spent that last year with our family around us."

Their daughter Sophie, 22, said her mother had never complained or "allowed us to feel sorry for ourselves".

She said: "She was really passionate about women getting their smear tests and she knew that you always have a gut instinct and if you feel something is wrong with your body, you should try and get it checked and if the doctor says you're fine, if you feel something's wrong, you should trust yourself."

Image copyright O'Connor family
Image caption The family are fighting for a wider inquiry into the case

Mr O'Connor said he also had concerns about the hospital's review.

"It's not independent because they wrote the terms of reference, the scope is very limited," he said.

"They're looking at doing the review from July 2017.

Image copyright O'Connor family
Image caption Mr O'Connor said his wife was "always happy, always smiling"

"The private hospital raised the red flag in March 2017 but this happened in 2014 so we do need to go right back to when it was misdiagnosed."

The trust's medical director Dr Chris Burton said: "We are committed to understanding the full circumstances of the care we provided so we can improve our services for the future."

He added the trust would be "publicly open with the overall findings of the independent investigation we have commissioned".

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